Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yankee Doodle Dandy at the Deadline

In a daring midnight raid, we at FTB have obtained secret audio recordings from the inner sanctum of Steinboro, the secluded underground palace of the Steinbrothers. Our team of trained monkeys labored in bananaless conditions for over 12 hours to transcribe them for your reading pleasure:

Hal: After years of feigning weakness, we have lulled our enemies into a false sense of security. First there was our inspired scrub out against the Indians in the ALDS, codenamed Operation: Kenny Lofton's 25 Bitches. Then we dumped Joe Torre overboard, but not before filling the water with chum. Finally, we opted to pass on Johan Santana and stick with The Big Three--if you square them, you get their ERA! Now we make our move! (cackling)

Hank: (smoking) Brian, have you purified yourself in those fuckin' oils yet? Those midwestern types won't jaw with you unless you've nanced yourself up a bit. They like their New Yorkers a bit whiffy, you know. Confirms all their fuckin' prejudices. 

Brian: Yes, my lords. I am prepared to depart for Pittsburgh to do your bidding.

[Unfortunately, we were not able to place an agent at the meeting in western PA, but our sources indicate that Brian Cashman was able to call in some markers. A posse may have been involved, but reports are spotty. We were able to insert a small recording device into Brian Cashman's lapel when he brushed up against us in a familiar manner on the 4 train on his way to Detroit.]

Brian: Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "why is he holding a bag of poop?" But watch... Look! It's on fire! And this is no ordinary bag of poop--it will burn for a thousand years and light your diamond from a cheery perch atop the pitcher's mound. Now in return for this fecal miracle we ask for only one thing: that washed up 'roid-rod you keep behind the plate. In return, I give you my word--my word, mind you--that this poop will burn forever, and that you will never be left holding a bag of slightly charred offal at some point in the near future. What do you say to that, gentlemen?

(Loud yelling and whooping, cries of "Long Live the Poo!" and--faintly--the sound of Kyle Farnsworth weeping into his hands.)

Cashman's put together a real contract year, folks. Marte, Nady and iRod for some blocked prospects and a relief pitcher who's name inspires a shiver of hatred throughout the Yankees Universe (TM).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

If I may direct your attention away from the stupid, stupid All-Star Game (bite me, AL), there is some major shit going down on the internet. As Serious Newscaster Man intones in the preview for The Happening, "There appears to be an event happening here."

Joss Whedon has released what's sure to be hailed as one of the top supervillain internet musicals of the last five years. Joss Whedon + supervillains + Doogie Howser + singing = ?? I challenge you to fill the right side of that equation with anything that is not largely synonymous with "OMGAWESOME."

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along
Blog stars Neal Patrick Harris as the titular low-rent mad scientist, working out of a shabby apartment/lair with his nefarious-yet-helpful roommate Moist ("You need anything dampened? Or made soggy?"). He's intent on joining something called the Evil League of Evil, but as of yet their leader Bad Horse ("He rules the League with an iron hoof!") hasn't responded to his application. Also, he's in love with and nerdishly stalking a woman at the local laundromat. Adorably/creepily, he's invented a freeze ray which he sings can "stop the world" so he can "find the time to find the words" to win her heart. He's like a sad, evil puppy dog, and it's hard not to root for him. Especially once you meet his nemesis: the preening, macho hero Captain Hammer (played by Whedonite Nathan Fillion), whose costumes seems to consist of nothing but a pair of comically over-sized gloves and a shit-eating grin.

Anyway, it's ridiculously wonderful, and sure to get better from here. Act I is online now, with Acts II and III to premiere over the next several days. Seriously, watch it. If you liked the Buffy musical (which you almost certainly did, as From the Balcony readers are known for their discerning-yet-geeky taste) you will laugh. Then you will say "Awww," when Doogie looks at laundry-chick with those evil puppy eyes. And then you will laugh some more. The show opens with Dr. Horrible practicing his mad scientist cackle, then explaining that it's just a work in progress, and he's been working with a vocal coach. If that doesn't appeal to you, then you just don't have a human soul.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Good points all around about Bonds. As I type this, the All-Star Game has entered the 14th inning and the AL has only one pitcher left: our very own Scott Kazmir! The same light-out lefty who has a 3.04 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 83 innings this season! *sob*

[UPDATE: Kazmir just got out of the top of the 15th inning. AL has no pitchers left, and Barry Bonds will swap caps with Mr. Met before he comes out for another inning.]

Anyway, I would like turn your attention to women's golf. Yes, I am serious. Jemele Hill over yonder at ESPN's Page 2 has written an interesting article on Michelle Wie and the state of women's golf. Michelle Wie is of course the (former?) golf prodigy who took the amateur circuit by storm by winning a major tournament when she was only 13 years old. The last few years have not bee kind to her. She has never won a professional women's tournament since leaving the amateur ranks in 2006. In 2007, Wie withdrew mid-game from a LPGA tournament and was heavily criticized by Annika Sorenstam, who questioned her professionalism and respect for other golfers.

Wie's been struggling to find her swing ever since. She withdrew from Stanford University this year to focus full-time on golf, but hasn't made the cut in any major tournament. On the other hand, she is 19-years old now and pervy men everywhere have the green light to consider her hot.

Meanwhile, as Hill points out, other young female golfers are rising up to take her place as the poster girl of women's golf. Most notably Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger Woods, is dominating the junior amateur circuit.

Okay, this is all fine and good, but do I really care about women's golf? No. So why am I bringing all this up and boring you half to death? Because of a question Hill poses at the end of her article. Hill blames Wie's recent failures on her quick rise to the pro ranks. The other young golfers such as Woods built up their resumes one amateur tournament at a time, going pro once they were ready. Wie, by contrast, was so talented that she basically skipped straight to the pros - and has floundered because she did not develop her skills properly.

Why did she go so fast? Hill blames Wie's father, who served as her manager and caddie, for trying to make the quick buck:

"Certainly no one can blame Wie for accepting the millions Nike and others supplied. But if you're Wie, which would you rather have right now, another seven-figure check or the promise of a meaningful career?"

Way to fuck up a great article, Hill. $30 million??? How can you possibly blame Wie for going for the quick bucks? Wie has set up herself and her family for a generation. Wie is not the archetypal basketball prodigy who declares for the draft too early and flounders out, getting drafted in the second round, and disappearing from the game soon after. She already made more than most women pro golfers make in their entire careers. And hell, she's only 19 years old! Even if she never makes another dollar from golf again, Wie can most certainly go ahead and have a 'meaningful career' in whatever she wants.

She's smart too! She went to Stanford! She's already accomplished two things on every Korean parent's wish list: gold championship and Ivy-equivalent school. Maybe floundering in golf is the best thing that could happen to her. She can go forward now and complete the Asian trifecta by becoming a doctor or a lawyer, and create even more parental pressure for Korean kids everywhere. You go, girl!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Update: Who Needs Him?

Eight wins in a row. Who needs Bonds when you have the illustrious Fernando Tatis?

The Mets are like tuna. I love it when they're on a roll.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ooh, can From the Balcony use its crazy chameleon magic to turn into a Mets blog now?

Much like you did with Young, I must acknowledge your larger point while arguing with your logic. By the numbers, Bonds would be a terrific acquisition for the Mets. Ask yourself this: are you more confident with Alou or Endy in left? Alou looks pretty rickety out there, but plug him into the lineup and it suddenly starts to look a lot like a meat grinder. Alou seems like a less and less of viable option, and if Bonds can replicate his 2007 season (admittedly a big if), he's an even better hitter than Moises. With Beltran zooming around center on his motorcycle we can afford a left fielder without range. Even better, unlike all the other sluggers on the market, he doesn't cost us anything (besides cash, and possibly not THAT much). I love Endy like a brother, but he doesn't offer too much with the bat. Bonds' stellar offense more than offsets his horrid defense. The Mets sign Bonds and instantly become a better team.

So why don't I want them to do it?

Because if they did we'd have to have Barry Bonds on our team.

I see Bonds as a tragic, almost Shakespearean figure, a victim of his own character. I feared and admired him in his Pirate days. He was the best player I'd ever seen play the game. He had blazing speed, hit scorching line drives, and his eight gold gloves have something to say about your claim that he's always been a sub par fielder. He had a great baseball lineage, and there was no reason why his name shouldn't have gone down in history alongside the likes Mantle and Mays and DiMaggio.

Then there was McGuire, and suddenly everyone in America was weeping and rending their garments for the new Home Run King. Bonds had more talent in his pinkie toe than McGuire had in his whole fence swingin', strikeout lovin', grounder-bootin' body. But were people knifing each other in the stands over Bonds' home run balls? McGuire was the golden boy, and Bonds, the any fair measure the greatest player of his generation, was jealous.

So he shot crazy drugs up his ass until he turned into the loathsome, hulking knuckle-dragger we see before us today. He lost the ability to walk without hobbling, his head swelled up too big for his helmet, (also, presumably his balls have fallen off or something by this point) but man did he start pounding the fuck out of the ball. He hit more home runs than any body had ever hit before.


The press misses the point when they talk about the unfair advantage that steroids gave Bonds. The real story here is that steroids DESTROYED Bonds. Because we celebrate flash over substance, the macho, fascist home run over real athleticism, our generation was denied an athlete for ages. Mention Mickey Mantle in a room of older people, and somebody will smile and say, "I saw him play." When we're sitting in our rocking chairs and somebody mentions Bonds we'll shake our heads and say, "I saw him wither." Kids watching the game today don't even know what Bonds used to be. That's how we'll remember him -- the sickly, musclebound freak, smacking dingers, yawning in the outfield and failing to run out pop ups. All because he wanted the applause we gave to McGuire.

And that's why I don't want Bonds on the Mets. Because he's depressing. Even in his diminished state he's probably an upgrade over Endy, but I don't want a left fielder that I can't look at without thinking about the corrosive aspect of the American dream. That's the opposite of why I watch baseball. Also, Bonds is a pretty big douchebag, and I only support douchebags if they are already on the team and have achieved the status of Beloved Douchebag. (See: Paul Lo Duca.)

But seriously... Young thinks we should sign Bonds because the crazy media circus will help us somehow? That is CUH-RAZY. Even for a sportswriter.
It is now July 10th and Barry Bonds is still unemployed.

This is not ot surprising, of course, considering his legal woes. Still, Bonds and his agent are confident that he will play this year. He's been working out at his secret mountain lair and select scouts have been invited to come see what a 44-year old baseball superfreak can do. So who will sign this man?

How about the Mets? That's what Eric Young, former ballplayer and current ESPN analyst, suggests in his Baseball Tonight Clubhouse post. Now now, stop laughing hysterically and put away that syringe and straight-jacket. The man did hit 28 home runs in 126 games last year - with the season halfway done, David Wright leads the Mets with only 17 bombers. So he'd help out with the power numbers. Bonds also posted an outworldly on-base percentage of .480 with 132 walks: mmmm, yummy RBI's!

Okay, so there is an intelligent case to be made for Bonds. Mr. Young's argument, unfortunately, is anything but. A cardinal rule in baseball is that its analysts are dumb and uninformed - the "Joe Morgan Rule", if you will. So let's have at it.

First, who are the Mets?

"This is a team that has the talent to not only win the National League East, but to run away with it. I believe the best way for this team to do that may be by making one more big headline this summer. That would be by signing Barry Bonds."

So far so good. The Mets have been a disappointment this year. Two years ago they came within one game of making to the World Series. Last year the team was visibly hungry for the title and maintained their NL East dominance throughout the season, except they infamously blew a 7-game lead to the Phillies with only 17 games left in the season. Just to give you a sense of how improbable this was, I remember convincing myself that everything was going to be fine because the Mets had 97.5% chance of making the playoffs with only one week to go. That was heartbreaking. This year, the Mets were flat coming out of the gate. They are hovering near .500 and have not been able to pull together a dominating stretch, despite the fact that they added the Best Pitcher on the Planet to the team.

Mr. Young, please continue:

"This is a move that would help this team in several different ways. First, this is a team filled with quiet guys who are having to deal with the circus that comes with playing in New York. The signing of Bonds would put all that pressure on him and allow the rest of this team to just play ball the rest of the season."

Duhrrrrr, what? Forget injuries, lack of clutch hitting, mistakes on the field, and the continuing implosion of the bullpen. The Mets are not playing well because of the New York media circus. This is a common charge. Anytime a New York athlete or team fares poorly, it's always because of the big scary wolves of the New York dailies are ripping on them for every single decision... especially when the bile and hatred is richly deserved.

Mr. Young's solution: bring in Bonds as the patsy! The man is hated so much already by the fans and the media that all the boo-birds of Shea Stadium will target their shit-bombs on Barry's ginormous head. Reporters will flock post-game to Bonds and grill him on his pending criminal charges, giving Wright, Reyes, Beltran and crew the chance to tip-toe their way out of the lockerroom and make a getaway on the team bus.

But how will Bonds contribute, besides as a decoy?

"Second, this gives the Mets not only the most potent offense in the National League, but in all of baseball. The Mets could trot out a lineup that started out like this: Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo/Damion Easley, Carlos Beltran, Bonds, David Wright and then Carlos Delgado. In the later innings, they could pull Bonds for Endy Chavez, a better defensive outfielder who could also help rest Bonds' knees."

That Castilo/Easley platoon sure is fearsome, no? Nah, I won't criticize Mr. Young too much on this point. That line-up sure sounds scary. The good news: Reyes is on track to post his career-best numbers and Wright is one the last stage of his metamorphosis into God. Beltran is Beltran: quitely racking up the number while playing excellent defense at center.

No, the real problem with the line is that old age has taken its toll on the veterans. Alou is out until god-knows-when, and Delgado completely fell off the wagon. The 2008 Mets are exhibit #1 for the theory that when you gamble with veterans, be prepared for the worst. Bonds will turn 45 sometime this season. He's not the kind of player who can take to the field every day.

The real flaw in Mr. Young's analysis, however, is that he completely omits defense. Baseball analysists (or at least TV analysts) bring in defense only when they want to hype up a player - the Derek Jeter Syndrome, if you will - and leave it out entirely when it leads to inconvenient conclusions. Let me say it loud and clear: Bonds is a terrible outfielder. His defense was always sub-par, but at this point he can't run, he can't dive, and he could never throw very hard. Expect flyballs to drop in the outfield like M.I.R.V. warheads falling on Soviet cities.

The Mets cannot afford Bond's defense, of all the teams out there, because our whole strategy for winning depends on outfield defense. We spent hundreds of millions of dollars on flyball pitchers and Gold Glove outfielders to take advantage of Shea's spacious outfield: Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, and Olivier Perez give up flyballs, and Endy Chavez and Carlos Beltran turn 'em into outs. That's Mets baseball. That's the highest flyball-to-out defense efficiency in the league. That's how we win.

So yeah, we might not want to add a doorstop to the outfield and hope and pray and cringe everytime the ball heads to the leftfield. Bonds will find gainful employment somewhere, to some other team with loads of cash mired in mediocrity (ahem, the Yankees). But he won't be wearing the blue and the orange anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"The only choice for the final roster spot on the 2008 American League All-Star Team is Jason Giambi. He not only represents the great Yankees dynasty previously led by the likes of Reggie Jackson -- the father of the mustache in modern-day baseball -- but Giambi represents the hopes and dreams of the previously downtrodden mustached American, a breed that was on the U.S. Endangered Species list as recently as 2005. Clearly, the voting public must take into account Giambi’s powerful lip fur, as it signifies great intellect, good looks, and the ability to stare down the most powerful of martial arts gurus." -- The American Mustache Institute